Saturday, August 12, 2017

Surviving August- Products For The Dog Days of Summer (and some nagging about SPF)


In all truth, this post should feature nothing but a single photo of the mammoth-sized air conditioning unit that sits behind the house. I owe it my sanity and should decorate it with flower garlands and assorted precious offering (preferably such that don't attract Arlo the groundhog). still, this is a blog about personal grooming, and as such we need to talk products. I'll skip the obvious: deodorants and blotting papers, a good rapport with one's pedicurist, and a large hat collection. Instead,let's look at the little things.

1. A good body powder to be used after the shower and before getting dressed. I'm all for luxurious Chanel after bath powders and even have a couple of pristine Givenchy III and Jovan Sculpture (a fogotten chypre) that I use before bed, but for daily use in generous quantities (and then some) I go with a classic, Roberts Borotalco, which you can find in various sizes and cheap prices on Amazon. It keeps my skin comfortable, non-sweaty, and fresh smelling from head to toe.

2. La Roche-Posay Serozinc spray. Not pictured here because I was distracted by something shiny while arranging the shoot, but this high-zinc water spray is calming my face and neck after scrubbing them to remove sweat and sunblock,  to recover from a heat rash or an allergy reactio, or just when my face is telling me that we both hate August. American stockist of La Roche-Posay don't have this miracle in a blue atomizer, but it's hard to find online from store like Notino.

3. Here's another essential  forgot to put in the photo. My old Clarisonic brush works extra hard during the summer (nothing like the gunk of a full day makeup, sunscreen, and good old sweat). I also has a Clarisonic Mia that was sent to me by PR a couple of years ago and has traveled the world with me. Since my skin is of certain age and more sensitive than ever, I use the brush with the dirt-cheap yet extremely gentle Cerave hydrating cleanser (it doesn't remove a speck of makeup by itself, but as the Clarisonic's sidekick it's excellent).

4. It's no secret that when I'm not out among people I keep my hair (all or partial) away from my face, up in a bun, half-and-half Middleton-style, or just twisted into one big mess at the nape of my neck (most likely). Even more than I like to hold my hair in pretty things I need said fripperies to be of an industrial strength. None of this is relevant if you have wispy silky strands that can be braided into glorious Daenerys Targaryen hairdos, but I need the big guns which I find at France Luxe. Some of these clips and barrettes are full glam and cost as much, others are a good balance of style and quality. I bu several new ones a couple of times a year because a girl with big hair needs a) variety, and b) some air flow on the back of her neck.

5) Dry Shampoo. Actually, all the shampoo in the world. But I've had days when my recently washed scalp was already crying for mercy by the time I was getting ready to go out for dinner in the city (also known as the polluted sauna). Bridging the gap is a good dry shampoo, and while I've recently tested that much-hyped foam one from Ouai, I was not impressed and promptly went back to my old favorite, aptly named New York Streets. I used to buy it by the dozen on Amazon, now it looks like a Walmart exclusive, which doesn't thrill me, but I'll pay the devil if I have to. Or switch to Colab.

6) The problem with waterproof mascaras is how cumbersome it is to fully remove them by the end of the day. Soaking, oiling, carefully babying, and you still end up with a faint trace under the lashes come morning. Tubing mascaras have been around for over twenty years, and I've recently gone back to the classic, Blinc. It forms a coat around the lashes (hence increasing volume), stay in place without disintegrating even under the worst conditions, and come evening you can take them all off with no rubbing or tugging, just use a washcloth well-soaked in very warm (not too hot) water.

7) Pure Aloe Vera gel. Yes, I also have Benadryl in cream and gel stashed in handbags ad around the house, but aloe is kinder and more versatile (burns, rashes, scrapes, bites, annoying people). I've been buying the one from Lily of the Desert for as long as I can remember. Some drugstores offer non-pure ones that are enriched with lidocaine or various antiseptics.

8) Waterproof eyeliners in easy to use gel formulas are everywhere. I'm an equal opportunity liner and my favorite come from many brands. Lancome Liqui-Drama (Sephora Exclusive) and YSL are outstanding for the range of gorgeous colors, but the Essence waterproof gel pencil ($1.49 on essencemakeup website) is among my (many many) staples.

9. Forgetting that one's lips require an SPF is the easiest thing in the world. You do your makeup, you prep, prime, line. and color, then you start your day and not always remember to do the whole thing right away between lunch and the car trip back. Any other scenarios apply. I love (love love) Coola Lip SPF. Tinted, plain, mineral, whatever. They all come in an SPF 30 and are very literally life savers.

10. Which brings us to the other life savers, and I mean that without a shred of sarcasm. The anti-aging benefits are nice and all, but a zealous and fanatical use of sunscreens does save lives. I'm cheating a bit here, since it's not an August or a dog days of summer product, but a 365 day a year thing, no exceptions. It's frustrating to see every corner pharmacy in France offering a variety of top-notch cosmetically elegant sunscreens at reasonable prices while our drugstores dole out those heavy white goops that promptly break me out and are impossible to use under makeup (and not that all of the eye-watering expensive stuff at department store counters is all that fantastic, either). Lucky for us this is 2017, consumer needs are heard (at least in some markets), and this internet thingy is making life easier.

I generally favor chemical sunscreen because they're the lightest and my skin is happy with them even if they contain alcohol. I buy tubes upon tubes of Japanese ones (Hada Labo and Biore) either online or at the local Japanese market, and use them like water (at around $13 a pop it's never an issue). Both my mother and husband have now converted. I also adore many French SPFs (see "cosmetically elegant"), though I purchase the European formulas and ot the USA versions, and do it through frenchcosmeticsforless.com (try sticking to your shopping list and not buying half of France). It's worth the wait time. They sell many brilliant sun protection products from bigger and smaller brands. My two favorites (texture and performance) are Uriage Bariesun SPF50 Cream (fragrance free) because it's gentle enough even on allergy days, and Bioderma Photoderm SPF50+ Laser Cream because it's the lightest and most pampering, yet effective enough for people undergoing laser treatments, so it's a no-brainer for a heavy retinoid and acid user like me (about $30 at the retailer mentioned above).

When it comes to purely physical sunscreens I've never had much luck until I've discovered Hydropeptide Solar Defense. The previous incarnation was only 30 SPF which I didn't consider enough for a midday outing but was adequate for a pre-sunset drive. It's now replaced with a beautiful SPF 50  ($48 on dermstore) that has a certain opalescent finish which I love under my foundation. It's the one SPF I'm willing to use instead of a primer, as it does a phenomenal job on both counts.



Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Five Little Makeup Tips That Make A Difference


It's always about the little things. I'm not going to tell you how important it is to avoid demarcation lines when applying foundation or blush, nor am I going to talk about blending your eye shadow (my personal rule about blending is that once everything is done and finished I take a clean brush and give my crease one more blending. It's kind of like the "look in the mirror and take one thing off just before leaving the house"). You already  know all of that and a lot more. The tips I'm sharing today are very little things that are easy to overlook though they make such a difference for me that I thought it's worth considering.

1. A good lighted magnifying mirror. They're terrifying and I doubt anyone enjoys staring at moon surface that is one's face monstrously enlarged. But this view is essential for at least two things: precision in applying eyeliner (especially since my eyesight is not what it used to be and I don't wear contacts), and getting a real idea of how my foundation, primer, and concealer interact with each other. The mirror shows streaks, flakes, questionable areas, and what really happens in my pores. It's the only way to truly judge a foundation as far as I'm concerned, as well as the true effectiveness of skincare. I use the Simplehuman 8" sensor mirror x5, and will probably add a small x10 at some point.

2. When it comes to eyelid primers less is more. I'm an enthusiastic advocate for primers. I use them on my face, lids, lips, and occasionally lashes. I never skip priming and will not consider doing a full face of makeup without this step. I've realized, though, how easy it is to apply too much, and I see the results occasionally on people's faces. I have yet to encounter an eye primer that requires more than the tiniest, almost pin-sized amount to create the desired invisible, smooth, perfect canvas. Annoyingly, whether you use a product in a squeeze tub or one that comes with a doe-foot applicator, the intuitive thing is to use the entire amount that comes out. That's at least twice what's needed, resulting in visible streaks, bleeding towards the lashes, pooling in the outer corners, and an even eye shadow application. The worst offender I know is Smashbox Photo Finish Lid Primer. The formula is fantastic and it comes in five shades, so it can camouflage hyperpigmentation on the lid. It fulfils every promise, but only if you scrape the applicator again and again and again, and then use a brush to pick a miniscule amount off it.

3. No matter how beautifully my mascara applies and how good it is, my lashes benefit from a quick go-through with a good lash comb. It's such a tiny thing that's easy to skip when in a hurry, but combing is the only way to completely separate the lashes, remove clamps, and create sophisticated  and elegant lashes. I know that retro heavy clumpy lashes were back for half a minute, but I prefer to avoid the 80s Aziza mascara look.

4. I like to start my makeup routine with exfoliating my lips. It doesn't matter what one uses: a homemade sugar-and-oil paste (messy and not my favorite, but it works), a balm/lanolin and a washcloth, or a commercial lip scrub (I like MAC and Milani, but will us whatever I've picked up while shopping for other things). Doing it removes flakes and also slightly prepares and plumps the lips for lipsticks. Treating the lips early one in the process gives them time to absorb some product, which helps prevent drying.

5. Good brows have both color and texture. When in a hurry it's tempting to go with the easiest, most fool-proof product one favors (for me that's Glossier Boy Brow in Brown with it's tiny brush and perfect-for-me color, but many prefer a clear gel or are so used to a specific pencil they can do it in their sleep). The thing is that achieving the perfect yet natural brows requires creating a three dimensioned realistic brow, not just filling in the gaps. This requires using two products of different textures that create a tiny bi of volume. It doesn't matter if it's pencil plus powder, powder plus gel, a pomade plus pencil or power--- whatever works. It's  that tiny bit of fullness that makes the brows look real and not painted-on.

Do you have small, almost trivial makeup tricks that make a world of difference?

The amusing image at the top is part of a beauty feature that appeared in the June 1972 issue of Vogue UK.

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